|Born: October 1, 1947|
|September 15, 1971, for the New York Mets|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 26, 1977, for the Atlanta Braves|
|Earned run average||3.87|
|Career highlights and awards|
Lee William Capra (born October 1, 1947), is an American former professional baseball pitcher, who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves, from 1971 to 1977. Nicknamed "Buzz", by a neighbor as a child, Capra was a National League (NL) All-Star and the NL earned run average (ERA) leader, in 1974.
Capra was a shortstop at Lane Technical College Prep High School in the Roscoe Village neighborhood on the Northside of Chicago. Besides playing shortstop, he began pitching at Illinois State University, and compiled a 17-5 record & 1.58 ERA. Capra was a team co-captain his senior year, and led the Redbirds to the 1969 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship.
Capra was selected late in the 1969 Major League Baseball draft, by the New York Mets. Though primarily a pitcher, he played some shortstop and second base with the Pompano Beach Mets in 1969. He went 33-10 with a 2.49 ERA & 367 strikeouts, over three seasons in the Mets' farm system, to earn a September call-up in 1971.
New York Mets
In 1971, Capra made three appearances out of the bullpen, and did not allow an earned run in his first two big league appearances. However, he was not so lucky in his third appearance: Facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium, Capra entered the game in the tenth inning, and retired only one of the seven batters he faced, Jorge Roque, who bunted Joe Torre to second after Torre had led off the inning with a single), on his way to allowing five runs and taking his first major league loss.
Capra won his first major league start, over the San Diego Padres, on April 25, 1972; however, he found himself back in the minors by the All-Star break. Capra also split the 1973 season between the Mets & the Triple-A Tidewater Tides. While all ten of his Tidewater appearances were starts, he was used exclusively in relief at the major league level. Capra earned his first major league save, on June 27, 1973, against the Philadelphia Phillies, pitching four innings of no-hit ball. Although he was on the Mets’ 1973 World Series roster, he did not appear in the 1973 National League Championship Series or World Series.
During spring training in 1974, the Mets sold Capra's contract to the Atlanta Braves. His record as a reliever stood at 0-2, with one save (earned the evening Hank Aaron hit his record-breaking 715th home run, on April 8, 1974), and a 3.06 ERA, when he replaced an injured Ron Reed, in the first inning, on May 15, against the Padres. Capra pitched six innings of one-hit ball to earn the win — and Reed's spot in the starting rotation.
Over his next three games, Capra went 2-0, with a 1.00 ERA. He allowed just three walks, while striking out fifteen, and began a Braves-record streak of 26 innings pitched without allowing an earned run. Over the month of June, Capra went 6-0 with a 1.05 ERA, three shutouts, and another complete game, to set a team record with nine consecutive wins, on his way to earning NL Player of the Month honors, and selection to the NL All-Star team by his former manager with the Mets, Yogi Berra. (He did not make an appearance in the game.) Capra cooled off during July and August (3-5, 4.43 ERA), but reverted to form in September, to end the season with a major league-best 2.28 ERA, 0.10 better than teammate, Phil Niekro (who finished second in the NL), and .21 better than American League (AL) leader, Catfish Hunter of the Oakland A’s. He also held opposing batters to an NL-leading .208 batting average against (BAA).
Capra won his first two starts of the 1975 season; however, a twinge in his pitching arm — that he had begun feeling toward the end of the previous season — worsened. Capra lost his next four starts, and was shut down for the season on June 8, with a 4-7 record and 4.25 ERA.
Capra did not return to the Braves until September 1, 1976, and was roughed up by the Chicago Cubs, in his first game back. He was relegated to mop-0up duty over his next four appearances, and ended the season 0-1 with an 8.68 ERA.
Capra‘s first game of the 1977 season also went poorly, but he pitched effectively enough in his next four appearances (3 earned runs in 11.1 innings, while holding opposing batters to a .179 batting average), to be placed in the starting rotation when an injury to Andy Messersmith opened a spot. He went 0-4 with an 8.55 ERA in four starts, before reverting to relief. Capra won his first game back in the bullpen, for his first win since he beat the Mets on May 25, 1975 (two days shy of two years earlier).
Messersmith suffered a second injury (on July 3), shutting him down for the season, and gave Capra a second shot at starting. He beat the Cincinnati Reds' "Big Red Machine," on July 13, then, on August 10, showed his old form against the Padres, allowing only two hits in nine innings, in an extra-inning game, where he was credited with a no-decision. Capra notched a win in the final game of his career, against the Houston Astros, September 26, 1977.
From the time Capra had re-entered the starting rotation, he had gone 2-4, with a 5.02 ERA, in sixteen starts over the remainder of the 1977 season. Overall, that season, Capra was 2-8, with a 5.84 ERA as a starter, and 4-3, with a 4.58 ERA in relief.
The Braves released Capra at the end of spring training, 1978, and he retired as a player, shortly thereafter. He then returned to Illinois State as pitching coach for the Redbirds; Capra went on to become a pitching coach and manager, in the Mets’, Phillies’, and Braves' respective farm systems.
While attending Illinois State, Capra earned his degree in teaching, and taught ceramics at a Chicago high school during the off-seasons, while still a player. He is a member of the Illinois State Athletics Percy Family Hall of Fame.
As a batter, Capra had only five runs batted in (RBI), in his playing career, the first coming on May 13, 1972, off Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, of the San Francisco Giants. That day, his second inning single drove in Cleon Jones, with the only run of the game. Capra’s second RBI was also a game-winner, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, on June 24, 1974.
- Rosenberg, I.J. (March 31, 2016). "Whatever happened to: Buzz Capra". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- "Lee Capra". Illinois State University Athletics. 1975.
- "St. Louis Cardinals 6, New York Mets 1". Baseball-Reference.com. September 27, 1971.
- "New York Mets 2, San Diego Padres 1". Baseball-Reference.com. April 25, 1972.
- "1973 N.L. Champion Mets Pitcher: Buzz Capra (1971-1973)". Centerfield Maz. October 3, 2017.
- "New York Mets 7, Philadelphia Phillies 6". Baseball-Reference.com. June 27, 1973.
- "Atlanta Braves 7, Los Angeles Dodgers 4 (Hank Aaron Hits Home Run #715)". baseball-reference.com. April 8, 1974.
- "Atlanta Braves 3, San Diego Padres 0". Baseball-Reference.com. May 15, 1974.
- Alred, John (January 26, 1975). "Capra in Atlanta to Play". The Gadsden Times.
- Kennedy, Ray (July 8, 1974). "Warning: Dangerous Slurves Ahead". Sports Illustrated.
- "1974 Major League Baseball All-Star-Game". Baseball-Reference.com. July 23, 1974.
- "1974 MLB Pitching Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. 1974.
- Caruso, Gary (1995). The Braves Encyclopedia. Temple University Press. p. 161.
- "Chicago Cubs 7, Atlanta Braves 5". Baseball-Reference.com. September 1, 1976.
- "Los Angeles Dodgers 14, Atlanta Braves 5". Baseball-Reference.com. April 12, 1977.
- "Atlanta Braves 6, San Diego Padres 5". Baseball-Reference.com. May 23, 1977.
- "Atlanta Braves 6, New York Mets 3". Baseball-Reference.com. May 25, 1975.
- "Atlanta Braves 4, Cincinnati Reds 3". Baseball-Reference.com. July 13, 1977. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
- "San Diego Padres 2, Atlanta Braves 1". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. August 10, 1977. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
- "Houston Astros at Atlanta Braves Box Score, September 26, 1977". Baseball-Reference.com. September 26, 1977. Retrieved 2019-05-21.
- "Transactions". The Daily News (Kentucky). March 30, 1978. p. 7.
- "Alley Cats Buzz Capra". GateHouse Media, LLC. April 20, 1995.
- "New York Mets 1, San Francisco Giants 0". Baseball-Reference.com. May 13, 1972.
- "Atlanta Braves 4, Los Angeles Dodgers 3". Baseball-Reference.com. June 24, 1974.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or Baseball-Reference (Minors), or Retrosheet
- Buzz Capra at Ultimate Mets Database
| National League Player of the Month
| NL Player of the Week
June 30, 1974
Don Wilson & Steve Rogers
| Major League Baseball ERA leader